The Age By Seana Smith
De-alcoholised wines are very disappointing. Sad but true, they generally taste like grape juice. However I raised my glass to Maggie Beer’s Sparkling Ruby Cabernet which is dry and does the fizzy treat trick nicely.
De-alcoholised wines do work well in other drinks though. Reds can make a very passable spiced mulled wine: just add sliced oranges and lemon, cinnamon sticks and cloves then simmer gently for 6 – 8 minutes. Ideal for chilly winter nights.
A de-alcoholised sparkling white wine can make a fantastic ersatz Aperol Spritz: just add Lyre’s Italian Spritz and top up with soda water. Seriously, you will never know it’s not the alcoholic version.
That spritz leads nicely into the explosion of alcohol-free spirits now making my drinks cabinet more colourful. Some of these spirits aim to emulate the originals, the Australian company Lyre’s Spirit Company being the most successful. I’ve had their bourbon equivalent as a New Old Fashioned; and tried their London Spirit as a (not) gin and tonic, and in a Dry Dry Martini with their Aperitif Dry.
But it’s the Lyre’s Amaretti which has won my heart. Using a trusty jam jar as a cocktail shaker, I’ve learned to make delicious Amaretto Sours. (Tip: use aquafaba not egg white.)
Some other Australian alt-gins are enjoyable too. Monday Distillery’s pre-mixed Classic G&T and Exotic Spice G&T have both hit the right spot in the late afternoon. Then there’s the range of three flavours from ALTD Spirits in Sydney's Marrickville and the cute little bottle from Brunswick Aces that all go very nicely with tonic. Add sprigs of rosemary or mint and slices of lime and lemon to create the full taste and scent experience.
My favourite of the alcohol-free spirits is the Seedlip Garden, an English concoction made from peas, hay and plants. It has a unique grassy flavour and goes down a treat with a Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic and ice.
My only complaint is their same-as-alcohol pricing. If there is no duty payable then why the high cost? Try The Duchess G&T range, a South African pre-mixed drink, for a cheap and cheerful option: just $10.99 for four little bottles.
As a drinker of alcohol, I never enjoyed beers but now there’s a fridge full of them: Pepperberry IPA and Finger Lime Cerveza, from Gold Coast-based Sobah Beverages, will remain permanent fixtures as will the Heineken 0.0, which is better than the locally brewed Heineken, claims my husband.
Many simple mocktails have been shaken and stirred during lockdown too: the Passionfruit Pop and the Cranberry Lime Soda will not be forgotten.
Now restrictions are easing, the alcohol-free adventures can continue as more bars and restaurants improve their sober drinks lists. Book me in for a socially distanced drink that will not make me anti-social.